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Clay County gears up for fire season peak

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Updated: 1/31 7:52 pm
MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- March is considered peak time for wildfires. With only a month to go, Clay County emergency management teams are wasting no time to make sure they're ready for it.

Nearly a year ago, a Middleburg neighborhood by Oak Moss Loop and Pine Ridge Parkway came right in the path of a 17-acre brush fire. Even the slightest smell of smoke brings back the memories for homeowner Amy Rupe.

"It was really scary. My son is 13. I used to run to Walmart get something and come back. Now it's not even an option because of that fire," said Rupe.

Deputy Director of Emergency Management John Ward said crews have started to make sure everyone knows what they need to do in case of an emergency.

"We have brush trucks, we're doing constant training with the Forest Service and our firefighters because the fire rescue service is our front line defense in a wildfire," said Ward.

This year may prove to be a bit more challenging. Annaleasa Winter, Florida Forest Service spokeswoman, said because of the rainy conditions they're behind on prescribed burns.

"Wet weather is also predicted next week, which will likely further delay these planned burns," said Winter.

So far, crews have burned more than 2,000 acres, but the goal is 15,000 before the spring.

"Even if they were on track with their burning, there are so many other areas in our heavily residential and populated areas that could still burn," said Ward.

Which is why Clay County is not taking any chances. Emergency teams will be building up their responses as the peak month approaches.

Rupe said she's preparing for the worst.

"Hope and pray that it doesn't happen again," said Rupe.

According to the Florida Forest Service, if the wet weather continues throughout the winter it'll still be able to conduct burns in the summer.

Ward urges residents to mow their lawns and pick up debris in their yards. This will help prevent further damage in the event of a fire.
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